Saturday, November 20, 2010

Two Business Development Tools You Must Use

1) Google Alerts and 2) LinkedIn Groups.

OK, yes, there are more than two "musts" for Business Development tools, but if you are not using these, then start now.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Don't Give Up On Your Blog (or Your e-Newsletter) Just Yet.

Tracking your readership is the easy part. Tracking your impact? Not so easy.

Your blog seems to get decent viewership, but has almost no followers and the only comments seem to come from SEO firms and spammers promoting E.D. pills or Russian brides. Your e-newsletter gets good opens and acceptable click-throughs, but, to outsiders looking in, it looks very much like a one-way street.

Should you give up? No. Not based on a lack of comments, anyway. At least not a lack of public comments.

Take heart from the following unsolicited comments from readers of two separate clients' efforts:
"Nice job David, I appreciated your insights and content this month especially."
(Not edited since I had permission to post. In fact, the "David" here, David Spitulnik, Managing Director of Blackman Kallick's Strategic Services Group, specifically asked me to create this blog post.)

If you looked at the Strategic Service's blog, you might wonder if anyone was actually reading it. But instead of judging its value by the number of comments you see, simply ask the author if he is getting any reaction or seeing any value. Actually, no need for you to pester him. David sent me a message after his most recent post: "Not sure what it is, but I have received more direct feedback this month than usual. One of them being a 'saw this note and passed it and your name along to a friend who needs help with succession planning.'"

And here's another unsolicited comment, in response to a different client's e-newsletter.
"Enjoyed your newsletter. Very interesting. I wasn’t aware of the _____ deal. We regularly have clients who are preparing their _____ but need to improve _____. I will be happy to send these folks your way."
Sounds just like the type of impact anyone would want from their efforts!

And, wait a second... let's go back to David's note. Did he say "direct feedback?" Let's consider that comment for a minute.

I'm frequently the voice of reason (against type, I know) when it comes to blogs and e-newsletters. My advice is often: Be patient. Build it slowly. Trust in your voice, your message and your readers. They'll come around.

Oh, and don't expect that you'll receive a Huffington Post-level comments. What makes you think you should receive that number of comments to your posts? More to the point: Why do you even want that?

Of course interaction is nice (like a pat on the back or the sound of a tree falling in the proverbial forest), but that's not how you should judge your blog or e-newsletter.

So, how should you judge it?

Don't ask me. Take a look back at your marketing plan and see why you created the blog or built the e-newsletter. If you are not realizing those specific goals, then do turn it off. If you don't know why you created it, then either turn it off or, quickly, come up with some goals. And then measure your success by those goals.

All that being said, if your goals included a specific number of comments to your every post, then you should change your goals and better manage the expectations of those judging the time (and money) you sink into these efforts.

But wait a second... am I really saying that you should simply trust that the blog is working?

No. Not at all.

If you are seeing no engagement (readership, click-throughs, etc.) then you can't be having any impact … and you need to charge course, since there is no there there. But if you are seeing decent engagement levels, and feel discouraged by a lack of public comments, then stay the course for a while longer.

What I am saying, simply (and admittedly not very succinctly), is not to judge your efforts solely by comments, but to look for other proof of engagement and impact. Such as direct feedback. Or people starting conversations with you based on what you wrote.

And I am also telling you not to judge other people's blogs by the number of comments. Judge them by the value of the content.

To end: Take heart and take your time. Building thought leadership takes patience and persistence.

Happy blogging.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Marketing is the Art of Managing Failure

"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one." - Elbert Hubbard
Are there any roles out there where failure rates as as high as what we marketers expect?

But first, what do I mean by failure?

We send out an e-blast to 1,000 people for an upcoming, free webinar. 320 open the e-blast. 50 click-through. And 6 register for our upcoming event. (Marketers right now are thinking, "If only...")

Here's the math:

32% open rate. 5% CTR. 6 registrants. A decent conversion rate for a single e-blast.

But let's turn the math around:

680 people (68%) never got* the invite. 950 people (95%) either didn't got it or didn't care. 994 people (99.4%) failed to register. If this were a test, you would get an A+ ... for failing.
I often explain that marketers are in the business of managing failure.
Only once in my career can I point back to a marketing effort with a 100% success rate, where every single recipient (105 of them) took the desired action (agreed to a meeting.) I can also point back to a campaign where we estimated a 10% acceptance rate and hit 30+%, which put the customer service folks in an untenable position for delivering on our promises**.

Unfortunately, I can also point back to efforts with 0% success rate. Yes, goose eggs. Where we wondered if the marketing actually dropped. (It's a sickening feeling, even for someone who knows that success is measured in partial percentages.)

OK, so why am I writing this?

Because marketers are often sitting across the desks from professionals who cannot fail. People for whom imperfection is career-threatening. 88% of your shipments arrived on time. 92% of your products worked as promised. 96% of your financial reports were accurate. 99.5% of the food your restaurant served today was safe for consumption. (Bear with this example...I'm coming off a bout of food poisoning courtesy of a mid-scale restaurant.) None of these are acceptable rates.

So when you, the profession marketer, talk excitedly about a "whopping" 32% open rate, these can't-fail professionals wonder if they could do your job with both hands tied behind their backs, pecking at the keyboard with their noses. When you talk about the 15 people who attended the webinar, they wonder just how far away from an actual monetary transaction this might be, only wishing that they also got credit for jobs partially done.
Marketers are more like kids at a party trying to get candy from a pinata. Sometimes our first swing hits the empty air.
We need the people sitting across from us to understand that we are in the business of managing failure. Our success is measured in small percentages. And, often, the target moves, so our next attempt has even less "success." But we recalibrate and take another shot. Then we measure the results and, if they are higher, we move in that direction some more.
When we clip the pinata, we readjust our aim, hoping this one will be more on target.
So, I repeat, marketers are in the business of managing failure. We do not expect anything close to a 100% success rate. And if you, our CEOs and Managing Partners and Presidents, expect we will succeed every time, then you are judging us by the wrong criteria.

Our job is not to get it perfect the first time, though that would be nice. Our job is to take calculated risks that, if we do our jobs well, can eventually create predictive results that provide a valuable and sustainable return on investment.
And when we hit the pinata just right ... everyone gets candy!

*Yes, I know that "got" is the wrong word. They "got" the e-mail, it just bounced off their cranium like a gnat off a motorcycle helmet. Not a technical bounce, but a functional one.
**The resulting sales for the product, however, made up for any short term grief.